Coming on the eve of the midterm elections, the pro-gay-marriage rulings are also in tension with the sustained effort Obama and his top aides have made since the 2008 campaign to push polarizing and contentious social issues like gay rights, abortion, race, and even gun rights into the background.

While advocates on both sides are eager to see the same-sex marriage issue back in the headlines, it’s far from clear just how prominent a role it will ultimately take. With unemployment rates near 10 percent, the economy is likely to be the driving force at the ballot box this fall. The country is mired in a difficult war in Afghanistan, has faced a series of terrorist attacks, and is polarized over a groundbreaking federal effort to overhaul the health insurance system.

We suspect the last paragraph will hold most true in a week’s time, when this issue quiets down on its path to the next big court decision.

What is perhaps most interesting about the reporting generally is that aside from quotes from family groups and Prop 8 advocates, there is little of the emphasis on family values and human morality in any of the mainstream reporting, at least in the capacity of arguments against gay marriage. This includes today’s sharp takes from the Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor.

If that holds true in the coming days, and represents some sort of wider trend, then it gives gay marriage rights proponents some cause for optimism. As The Social Science Journal study authors write:

The role of news media becomes relatively important while reporting these public debates over gay marriage, because not only do the news media affect people’s attitudes toward gays and lesbians by positively or negatively reporting the gay and lesbian issue, but also shape people’s perspectives of the same-sex marriage policy by framing the recognition of gay marriage in the news coverage.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.